Choosing the Right Point-of-Sale Equipment

Weigh your decision carefully so you can process payments quickly, safely and easily.

Q:When should merchants consider replacing or upgrading theirelectronic payment processing systems?

A:Today's point-of-sale (POS) systems are offered with onepurpose in mind: to save retailers time and money. POS optionsprovide value in many ways:

  • They help merchants process a wider variety of paymentoptions--such as credit cards, smart cards, debit cards, electronicchecks, check guarantee services and electronic benefit transfercards offered by state and federal agencies.
  • They eliminate the manual key-in processes. Because keying ineach card number is slow and prone to errors or fraud, today'sswipe technology is faster and more productive. Plus, processingfees are significantly lower because the method is much moresecure.
  • They offer productivity enhancements to mobile businesses. Withwireless technologies, systems for field sales often pay forthemselves in a matter of weeks or months.

Today's processing systems offer so many choices thatmerchants should seek the assistance of experts before making afinal buying decision, especially since the equipment cansignificantly impact your ability to process sales quickly, safelyand profitably.

At this time, there are a number of popular POS systems thatmerchants and mobile businesses can choose from. Some are designedfor multilane retail environments, which gives customers completecontrol over their credit, debit or EBT cards, while deliveringfast transaction processing power. For these fast-paced retailenvironments, look for systems with graphical displays, built-inPIN pads and interactive LCD touchscreens. Find a system thatconnects directly to retail cash registers so there's no needfor dual entries, which can cause delays and errors. A system thatprovides electronic capture of signatures and receipts eliminatespaper records, gives merchants instant access to transaction dataand reduces chargeback costs.

Some POS systems offer entire suites of products; that is,secure payment families of business tools designed to improvepayment accuracy and decrease the transaction time. Theseintegrated suites of systems offer all-in-one terminal/printercombinations that support virtually all payment processing demandsfor today's merchants, including credit card authorization,ATM/debit, check guarantee and multiple merchant applications andidentifications. Most merchants find that these integrated systemsoffer fast, reliable and cost-effective performance for credit cardauthorization and draft capture, too.

POS systems with attached printers deliver crisp, legiblereceipts, their PIN pads are easy to use, and they support allmajor encryption key management schemes. Many of these units alsofit comfortably in the palm of your hand to allow for secure dataentry for credit and debit cards, electronic check acceptance,check guarantee and even American Express Travelers Cheques.

Merchants should also be aware that wireless handheldtransaction processing for both offices and field sales and servicepeople is growing by leaps and bounds. Handhelds deliversignificant productivity improvements for service workers throughsecure Internet connections to computers in either their homeoffices or at corporate headquarters.

Other new transaction processing options accommodate merchantswith limited start-up budgets who want to get online fast, or thosewho already have Web sites and want to add online paymentfunctionality. In these cases, merchants may want to check outsystems with secure payment gateways, centralized processing andonline check acceptance capabilities.

Before you buy, lease or rent a POS system, it's always bestto check with the experts prior to making your final decision. Theresult could be significantly increased sales and improved customerservice--two benefits that will serve you well no matter what theeconomic environment.

So whatever system or approach you decide to go with, here are afew key features--and benefits--to look for in your POS system:

High performance at anaffordable priceBetter merchant profitmargins and sales opportunities; superior reliability
Password protection fromunauthorized downloadsIncreased merchantretention and tracking
Supports multiplelanguagesMarket expansionopportunities
Compact design for base orwall mountingWall-mount capabilityeliminates counterspace clutter
Easy-to-read, two-line,multilingual backlit displayBetter merchantunderstanding and more flexibility
Clearly labeled dedicatedfunction keys to process standard transactionsNo need to refer to theoverlay for standard transactions; easier to locate the desiredtransaction on the keyboard
Multiple greenscreen-addressable keysIncreased convenience inselecting desired options for transactions and localfunctions
Single keyboardoverlayNo need to produce andstock separate overlays for different industries
Pre-print and pre-dialcapabilitiesFaster overall transactiontimes from card swipe to receipt printing
Transaction security viamanager passwordFlexibility for the owneror manager to control access to certain sensitive transactioninformation

Cardservice International Senior Vice President ofSales John Burtzloff is in charge of sales strategy andexecution and thus is responsible for managing all aspects of thecompany's marketing, communications, telesales, checkguarantee, new accounts and sales support activities.

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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